I’ve been silent these last few weeks. It’s not for want of trying, but for something to say. The weather just hasn’t been congenial for cycling or photography. I don’t mind (too much) riding in the rain, but I’m not going to bore everyone with mediocre photos of clouds, explaining how beautiful they’d be if you could only see the mountains in the background.😮 This weekend, though, the cloud cover broke, on the other side of the state.
I wouldn’t have done this ride, normally, but I bought a new cycling guide book, 75 Classic Rides in Washington, and this is one of the routes it lists. Besides, I didn’t have better plans on Sunday.
Sunday was a blustery day in a windy land. The headwinds, as always, were brutal, but so were the cross winds. There were a lot of places where the road was protected by a strand of trees or by the hill side, only to come into an exposed zone once you’ve had a chance to pick up some speed. In the barren hills near Wenatchee, there were very few tell-tales to watch for gusts. Still, it rained in Seattle, and my sunburn was a good trade.
I took my bike to Leavenworth (where several other great rides have started, ended, or passed through), and rode to Wenatchee and back, almost entirely on side roads, often climbing partway up the walls of the Cashmere Valley. I turned around at the mighty Columbia River – the one Canada’s BC is named for – after dunking my head to cool down. This wasn’t a long climb followed by an endless descent, though, it was more like gentle rolling hills with an occasional rude segment.
For the cyclists reading this, I should say that I lost the route three times. Pine Flat Loop’s road sign is rotated enough that it’s hard to tell which way to go; the ‘wrong’ way still gets you where you need to be, but I missed a nice climb and descent, and a bit more scenery. I would have had to retrace my steps from Wenatchee if I didn’t have a GPS with maps. And I’m not sure what happened in Dryden. That said, it was a good time, and you should do a ride like this. (A map and elevation chart can be found at the end of this post.)
Heading east from Leavenworth, looking southwest toward Icicle Ridge or the Mount Stuart Range?
This is nothing like my normal style. I love it! While the extreme saturation and the brightness can be downright startling at first, the image grows on you quickly.
A panoramic image of the Cashmere Valley, walled in by the eastern flank of the Cascades. The valley itself is heavily irrigated and supports a lot of farms, but the background is a sagebrush steppe.
The Mount Stuart Range – still snowy in late June – in the background, with Peshastin orchards lining the back road I found myself on.
Coming down into Wenatchee from a short climb along a wall of the valley. Notice the great and terrible sky, stretching as far as the eye can see, almost without a cloud.
Water in a hot and thirsty place. This is the Columbia River at Confluence State Park, where it meets the Wenatchee. (I didn’t stay long, but it’s fun to note that bikes get in free; the $10 fee for people who don’t have a Discover Pass is for parking, not for being in the park.)
Brown and dead-looking hills behind the Columbia River.
Indulge me one more picture of the bike. Panorama mode wasn’t working out here, and I wanted to show the background – the walls holding the valley in. Despite the intense heat from the sun beating down mercilessly, there was still snow on the ridge top. Also, while this is the least visually appealing of the three, ironically it has the best composition.
Heading north on US Highway 97 (Alternate). This was a hot, dead, fast, and unpleasant section of the ride. I only wound up here because I lost the trail on Penny in Wenatchee. I climbed one of the hills to the left (west) and found my way back, rejoining the ride outlined in the book a few miles later. There was some sort of (wild?) flower garden nearby, but, alas, I had a long drive ahead of me and didn’t have time to see it.
This was about the time I started “running out of ‘gas'” and had to stop for an emergency iced cream shake. Then I had enough energy to finish the ride feeling strong.
The Wenatchee River, west and up hill from its meeting with the Columbia. This was just after crossing a one-lane bridge heading back toward the highway on Old Monitor Road.
A final look at the Wenatchee River, from Stines Hill Road. The foul weather that’s plagued western Washington for the past three weeks is making its way over the mountains and toward this sunny pocket.
Much of the ride looked like this; it could easily have been California. The hills forming the western border of the Central Valley look a lot like this.
Satellite map showing the route I took in red. The book gives directions from Wenatchee, and I did the ‘loop’ backwards, to cut down on driving time. (Also, the Leavenworth Park and Ride is free; Confluence SP is not.)
Elevation chart for the ride: 2,700 feet of climbing, nicely spaced.
I’m not going to list directions for this ride, partly because the route was pleasant and nice, but not my style, and also because somebody spent a year or more researching and writing a cycling book, and came up with this in the process. I don’t want to steal the guy’s thunder, I’m just sharing a ride report and some photos, and giving credit where it’s due, to Mr McQuaide.